8 everyday tasks that are a struggle for newcomers during Canada’s winter

When you don’t know the winters in Canada, you can hardly imagine what it is really like to experience temperatures below zero. It’s something that you only learn when you come and live your first Canadian winter.

For example I couldn’t have ever imagined that smiling on a windy winter day could make your teeth hurt, or that if you forget to put on a beanie or toque on a windy day, you’ll feel like you have needles in every single follicle in your scalp.

No one warned me about this before and it was a  total surprise when I moved to Ottawa. For a newcomer many simple tasks become a huge challenge in winter.

I still have fresh memories of those things that were extremely or very difficult to do in winter and I’m going to share them with you.

1. Shoveling the snow

This is the hardest task, especially when you have to do it after a heavy snowfall. In our first winters we usually did this together as a team to finish as soon as possible before our hands or noses got too cold from being outside.

Nowadays we have a snowblower and it’s great, but it can only work with a certain depth of snow. If it’s not very deep you have to shovel anyway. Another alternative to avoid this task is to hire a company, which can charge hundreds of dollars for the whole season.

man shoveling the snow

2. Clearing the snow from your car

You leave work, you’re tired, and when you get to your car in the parking lot, it’s all covered in snow or ice. You’ve got to clear the snow from all the car windows, and this can take you several minutes. If outside it is -18 degrees, or it’s a windy day, brrrr!

man clearing the snow from a car

3. Filling your tank with gas

I hated to do this when we just arrived in Ottawa, because to handle the gas hose properly I had to take off my gloves. Waiting for the tank to fill with gas seemed like an eternity!

4. Waiting for the bus

Even though there are some bus stops that are closed in, and some of them have heaters, most of them are open, and waiting several minutes for the bus to come can be excruciatingly cold.

5. Waiting for the light to change

When you’re a pedestrian, having to wait for the light to change in order to cross the street, can be intolerable if you’re new to the Canadian winter, especially on those freezing cold days.

In January we experienced many days in Ottawa with temperatures below -25°. When I was walking in the street and waiting for the light to change, I thought that it was ridiculous to have to wait in that cold, especially when there were no cars coming.

I confess that sometimes I don’t wait.

6. Putting your grocery shopping in the car

After leaving the supermarket with a cart full of groceries, the task of putting all the things in the car can be a feat. We used to do this as a family work team, like a race against the clock.

7. Paying the parking

Paying at the machine is always a struggle because you have to take off your gloves or mittens to insert your credit card and then remove it. Things are worse when you’re a newcomer and you have to figure out how the machine works. You can spend several minutes there with severe pain in your hands.

parking meter

8. Walking the dog

If you’re the happy owner of a cute dog, you cannot evade the task of walking your pet no matter if it’s almost -30°C outside. If you don’t do it, your dog is going to have extra energy to literally destroy your home.

Some dogs make it clear that they don’t want to go outside when it’s freezing cold. My former neighbor told me that his Schnauzer would resist at the door when it was -20°C. Our furry Golden Retriever though, doesn’t make any fuss about it, but when it’s really cold, she starts to limp as a sign that she wants to get back home.

These are the things that I remember that were a struggle during my first winters in Ottawa. Now that I’m experiencing my fifth winter, things are more manageable.

Definitely I’m more adapted to the cold now, so that many times I don’t use gloves to clear the snow from my car, for example.

So if you’re struggling with the cold, keep in mind that it’s temporary. One day you’ll remember with a smile on your face, how bad the winter was when you just moved to Canada.

What have been the most difficult things of dealing with winter for you? Please share your thoughts. Take care.

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